I’m going to start off this post by saying that native apps have many, many advantages to them (greater stability, performance, security, integration with existing features on the phone, and more!). Web apps too, have their own advantages; the ‘better’ one depends on the task.
What characteristics would improve your app’s usability?
1. Make sure your layout is responsive.
1. Make sure your layout is responsive.
This is especially important if you are creating a web app, or a native Android app.
Web apps: Responsive layouts are crucial for web apps. Not only will your app be viewable on a multitude of different desktop resolutions, but users will be using your app on their smartphones as well (read: the user experience should be similar on all desktops, as well as all Apple, Android, Blackberry, and Windows smartphones and tablets). A recommended approach is to make your website dynamic.
Native apps: I specified the importance of a responsive layout for Android apps because unlike Apple’s iPhones and iPads, Android devices do not have specific screen dimensions. To give you an idea, there are 4 common screen density-independent pixel (dp) resolutions (1 dp = 1.5 px), extra large, large, normal, and small. Within each dp, are different screen widths. For instance, there are 3 common sizes for 320dp screens (240×320, 320×480, 480×800). In short, for your native app to have high usability, it will need to fit on many different screen sizes.
2. Screen real estate is valuable, so while you should keep your screens uncluttered, you should also provide easy navigational tools.
With screens shrinking in size (and then increasing, due to an increased adoption of tablets and larger smartphones), screen real estate is important. Keeping your apps uncluttered will help users accomplish the task quickly. However, in the case that the app is not simple enough in nature to adopt a minimalist design, easy navigational tools should be provided (drop-down menus, slide in menus, etc). See Occam’s Razor in UI Design: Minimizing Complexity for more about uncluttering your interfaces.
3. Don’t break out of patterns.
If a usability pattern has been established (whether it is by apps in general, or within your own app), don’t break out of it. For instance, if most of your screens had a search button in the top-right corner, all future search buttons should also be in the top-right corner. An example of a general pattern to not break is to make sure things that aren’t buttons shouldn’t look like buttons.
4. Minimize guessing.
Guessing is frustrating, time-consuming, and makes it difficult to learn how to use your UI. To minimize it, always provide feedback. If your app is loading, provide a visual spinner. If there is an error that is stopping your app from running, inform your user about what they could do to help (e.g. turn on wifi). Mokhov (2011) recommends guiding the user towards their next steps by making those areas more prominent (e.g. larger button).
5. It’s annoying to type for too long on a smartphone, so make sure users only type if they have to.
Keyboards on smartphones are small. Keyboards on any touchscreen lack tactile feedback (a slight phone vibration per tap just doesn’t do), so minimize the amount of typing users must do. For instance, sign up forms should only ask for required information, which usually brings it down to around 4 fields ([user]name, email, birthday, password).
Apache 2.0 (2012, Dec). Supporting multiple screens. Retrieved from http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/screens_support.html
Hacker, W. (2012). Boost your mobile e-commerce sales with mobile design patterns. Retrieved from http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2012/12/19/boost-your-mobile-e-commerce-sales-with-mobile-design-patterns/
Mokhov, O. (2011). 10 essential web application usability guidelines. Retrieved from http://speckyboy.com/2011/03/31/10-essential-web-application-usability-guidelines/
Webcredible. (n.d.). 7 usability guidelines for websites on mobile devices. Retrieved from http://www.webcredible.co.uk/user-friendly-resources/web-usability/mobile-guidelines.shtml
In the past, we had focused on mHealth in a more general sense. There were discussion of worldwide mHealth stats, how mHealth apps increases the level of patient care, the benefits of doctor-to-doctor apps, real-life success stories of mHealth apps, and more. Here we discuss how mHealth can improve healthcare for children specifically.
1. Real-time monitoring capabilities, which reduces admin costs
Tablets have the capability of monitoring many health-related things. For instance, its accelerometer can be used to track sleep patterns, and its camera can track your heartbeat. This can reduce admin costs because tracking can be done in the comfort of the child’s home. Parents will not only be able to take care of them, but they will also be able to send the doctor updates on medical data. This frees up hospital resources, such as beds and nurses.
2. Easy access to analytical data
Mobile apps can track many things (e.g. number of taps on particular elements, time of taps/recording/use, duration, variables that are monitored in real-time) and provide the data in a hassle-free manner. This allows for more accurate medical plans and adaptations to better reflect the usage stats provided by the app. For instance, if the tablet app indicates that a child’s parents are only available to track health data in the evenings, a doctor will be able to cater their medical advice to fit in with the family’s natural schedule. This will improve compliance rates. As another example, if the analytics show that parents generally do not track their child’s sleep patterns when they were recommended to, that particular module can be revised to again improve compliance rates.
3. Data visualizations, that allow for descriptive conversations with parents
Due to the screen size and speed of a tablet, data can instantly be made into graphs and other easily accessible visual materials. This allows for more effective conversations, since the data can be more easily understood at a glance, especially for those who are not familiar with the field. Furthermore, not only do images and data visualizations capture a child’s attention more successfully than numbers and stats, but similarly to parents not in the medical field, it is easier for them to understand too (think: “This is where you are, and this is where you should/will be.”).
4. Offer positive reinforcement through tablet games, activities etc.
Finally, just for the kids, tablet games can educate children through interactive and fun activities. Anatomy and surgical games will help children better understand medical procedures and help reduce stress. Light-hearted quizzes can help identify gaps in their knowledge.
Glenn, B. (2011). Mobile health apps hold big potential for diabetes management. Retrieved from http://www.modernmedicine.com/modernmedicine/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=790809
Sifferlin, A. (2012). 5 great health apps you should download now. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2012/08/16/5-great-health-apps-you-should-use-now/
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